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Netherlands could play key role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution if it bridges sectors, according to parliamentary representative

Jan Klink, People's Party for Freedom (VVD) Dutch parliament member, criticized the Netherlands' vaccine donation process in a recent interview; he included the Netherlands' delayed start of COVID-19 vaccine dose donations in a list of critiques.

According to Klink, the Netherlands should involve Dutch entrepreneurs in the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines, recommending the mobilization of tulip farmers as an example. One of the leading voices in parliament on global health issues and private sector, he proposed bridging different sectors so that the Netherlands can contribute to the worldwide distribution of vaccines.

Klink, who is a former dairy farmer himself, stated that the Netherlands should focus its development cooperation policy on what it is good at - sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), women’s rights, water, and agriculture.

News article - Vice Versa (in Dutch)

EIB opens new office for West Bank and Gaza, announces new public health cooperation with WHO in Palestine

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has opened a new office based in Jerusalem to cover the West Bank and Gaza; it also announced new cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) on public health in Palestine.

The new EIB office, which will be based on the EU representation to the West Bank and Gaza in Jerusalem, will facilitate €215 million (US$232 million) in dedicated EIB financing for business investment and technical support for Palestinian partners.

The EIB will also be supporting the WHO to assist the Palestinian Ministry of Health to assess and strengthen primary healthcare and oncology services, as well as increase investment in health in Palestine.

Press release - EIB

Press release - EIB

Healthy Aging Prize for Asian Innovation open for applications to address demographic shift

The Asian Health and Wellbeing Initiative (AHWIN) extended the application deadline for the 2022 Health Aging Prize for Asian Innovation to May 31, 2022. 

East and Southeast Asian nations are experiencing rapid population aging and are in need of innovative solutions to address a wide range of challenges. The Healthy Aging Prize for Asian Innovation was first awarded in 2020 and aims to recognize and amplify initiatives specifically focused on aging. Innovations must fall within one of three categories: technology and innovation, community-based initiatives, or supporting self-reliance.

Press release – Asian Health and Wellbeing Initiative 

South Korea’s leading bio-tech companies join forces to establish 'Vaccine Innovation Council'

South Korea’s vaccine companies have decided to launch a “Vaccine Innovation Council” to establish vaccine sovereignty, enhance international competitiveness, and cooperate with the aim of strengthening research and development (R&D) capabilities in the vaccine industry.

South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Vaccine Innovative Technology Alliance Korea hosted the launch ceremony for the Vaccine Innovation Council; 14 major Korean vaccine companies participated. The Council plans to conduct research on vaccine development, strengthen R&D capabilities, and cooperate with the government to produce countermeasures in the event of a national health crisis caused by infectious disease. The Council intends to help South Korea respond to future infectious diseases based on strengthened vaccine development capabilities.  

News article – Korea (in Korean)

Advocates criticize Norway for development budget reprioritization in response to Ukraine crisis

The Norwegian government is proposing a record-high development assistance budget of NOK44.9 billion (US$4.5 billion). On May 12, 2022, the government published the revised state budget, indicating the intent to increase the development assistance budget by NOK3.6 billion (US$366 million), to NOK44.9 billion (US$4.5 billion) total, corresponding to a 1.09% ODA/GNI ratio for 2022.
 
The government will increase funding to Ukraine and its neighboring countries by NOK1.75 billion (US$178 million), meaning that Norway will contribute at least NOK2 billion (US$203 million) in response to the Russian invasion. In addition, the government allocated 50% of the increase - NOK 1.8 billion (US$183 million) - to in-country refugee costs in Norway, which has been met with heavy criticism. 

The government also proposed the reprioritization of NOK4 billion (US$407 million) within the development assistance budget to finance increased refugee expenditure in Norway. This move aligns with OECD regulations, but advocates are increasingly concerned. The funding will draw from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Climate and Environment. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to cut NOK3.6 billion (US$366 million) and the Ministry of Climate and Environment, NOK300 million (US$30 million).

According to the revised budget, the follwing thematic areas and organizations will be affected by the reprioritization:

  • Afghanistan: NOK60 million (US$6 million);
  • Gender equality: NOK65 million (US$7 million);
  • UN Organization for Rights and Equality (UN Women): NOK75 million (US$8 million);
  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): NOK99 million (US$10 million);
  • World Health Organization: NOK118 million (US$12 million);
  • Human rights: NOK136 million (US$13 million);
  • Stabilization of countries in crisis and war: NOK140 million (US$14 million);
  • Civil society: NOK208 million (US$21 million);
  • Africa, regional allocation: NOK250 million (US$25 million);
  • The Knowledge Bank: NOK250 million (US$25 million);
  • United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef): NOK358 million (US$36 million);
  • United Nations Development Program (UNDP): NOK440 million (US$44 million);
  • Health: NOK470 million (US$47 million); and
  • Education: NOK553 million (US$56 million).

The only increased allocation in the development assistance as part of the reprioritization is funding towards food security, fish, and agriculture. The funding will be increased by NOK200 million (US$20 million) as a response to the impending global food crisis, which will be exacerbated by the Russian invasion.
 
Several Norwegian CSOs and international development advocates decried the revised budget. Henriette K. Westhrin, Secretary-General of Norwegian People's Aid indicated that it is incomprehensible that the government would consider cutting funding to the world`s poorest, especially since Norway is profiting immensly from the invasion. Secretary-General of Norwegian Church Aid, Dagfinn Høybråten, said that the cut could have major consequences for vulnerable people in low- and middle-income countries and could have a major domino effect on other donor countries' ODA. Secretary-General of Save the Children Birgitte Lange was similarly unimpressed with the development assistance budget cuts, highlighting that in the revised budget, for each seven dollars in development assistance, one will go to Norway rather than partner countries.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

News article - Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)

News article - Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)

EU-Africa global health clinical trials partnership launches with US$1.7 billion for next ten years

At an event in Paris, the European Commission launched the Global Health European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership Joint Undertaking (GH EDCTP3 JU) with a €1.6 billion (US$1.7 billion) budget for the next ten years to fund clinical research on infectious diseases impacting countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The GH EDCTP3 JU is a partnership under the EU’s Horizon Europe research program. It is the largest Africa-Europe partnership on research and development (R&D) to date. It will focus on poverty-related diseases such as  HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and neglected tropical diseases (PRNDs).

Its predecessor, EDCTP2, was a partnership only between participating EU member states and sub-Saharan African governments, whereas EDCTP3 is also open to participation from industry and philanthropies. Its overall budget includes contributions from the European Commission as well as participating countries and private sector entities.

Blog post - DSW

Website - European Commission

Canada announces US$181 million to support people affected by conflict in Syria

Canada participated in the sixth conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region on May 9 and 10, 2022, with the intention of addressing the critical needs of millions of people across the region amid the ongoing Syrian conflict. Canada announced that it would commit CA$229 million (US$181 million) in funding for humanitarian and development assistance to Syria and the region this year.

CA$60 million (US$48 million) of the funding will specifically support development assistance in Syrian, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. The funding will focus on supporting accountable governance, empowering women and girls, advancing gender equality, improving the quality and sustainability of gender-responsive services including health and education, fostering economic growth, and addressing climate change.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

EIB and European Commission sign new agrreement to guarantee US$28.8 billion for Global Gateway investments

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission signed a new guarantee agreement to support €26.7 billion (US$28.8 billion) in EIB lending for Global Gateway investments over the next seven years.

The guarantee will support investments in the green and digital transitions, health, and education in EU partner countries as a part of the EU’s Global Gateway initiative. More than two-thirds of the guarantee cover will be targeted at investments in enlargement and neighborhood countries, including financing for Ukraine's post-war reconstruction. The rest will be targeted toward partner countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

The guarantee agreement is housed within the framework of the new European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus ("EFSD+"), a part of the EU’s development instrument for 2021-2027, the Neighborhood, Development, and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI – Global Europe). 

The EFSD+ will provide guarantee cover of €40 billion (US$43.2 billion) total, including the €26.7 billion (US$28.8 billion) reserved for the EIB. The rest of the €13 billion (US$14 billion) in guarantee cover will be available to eligible international financial institutions (including the EIB) under the EFSD+ open architecture.

Press release - European Commission

Press release - EIB

Coalition Plus calls on governments to increase Global Fund contributions

In an op-ed published on Komitid, Coalition Plus, an international network of AIDS NGOs called governments to increase their financial contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by at least 30%. 

President of Coalition Plus Hakima Himmich highlighted that the Global Fund's financial target for its next replenishment constitutes a 30% increase compared to its last cycle. However, mobilizing US$18 billion for the 2024-2026 period will only cover 14% of the resources needed to fill the gap in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Himmich also thanked the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal for their personal commitment to a successful replenishment; she additionally called on them to maintain their leadership in the space and advocate to their counterparts for the mobilization of domestic resources that should represent 45% of the needs to tackle the AIDS pandemic during the same period. 

While recognizing the added value of the Global Fund, Himmich also called on the organization to better include vulnerable communities in the definition, coordination, and execution of their funded projects. 

Op-ed: Komitid (in French)

Norway disbursed US$4.2 billion in development assistance in 2021

Statistics, released on May 10, 2022, by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), demonstrate that Norway gave NOK40.1 billion (US$4.2 billion) in development assistance in 2021 - the highest amount in absolute terms in Norway's history. In addition, the number represents a NOK600 million (US$6.2 million) increase from 2020.

Norad manages 50% of Norwegian development assistance, which is equivalent to NOK20 billion (US$2.1 billion). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs manages 32% of the total funding, while the rest of the funding is managed by other ministries such as the Ministry of Climate and the Environment and Norwegian embassies in partner countries. 

In total, Norway gave NOK7.9 billion (US$822 million) in health-related funding in 2021. This number also includes core support for multilateral organizations. In 2021, NOK2.9 billion (US$301 million) was earmarked to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its respective consequences in low-income countries. Norway contributed 6.6 million COVD-19 vaccines, valued at NOK 380 million (US$39 million), according to the OECD.

The World Food Program (WFP), GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria received the largest increases in funding in 2021 for individual organizations.

NOK6.4 billion (US$666 million) of the development assistance in 2021 was targeted at climate-related funding in low-income countries. According to Norad, 16% of Norwegian funding was directed toward climate. 

Syria is still the single country receiving the most funding from Norway as a result of the ongoing humanitarian crisis due to the more than 10-year civil war. In 2021, Norway gave NOK895 million (US$93 million) in humanitarian assistance to Syria. In the 10-year period between 2012-2021, Syria received NOK7.4 billion (US$770 million) in funding. In 2021, Norwegian funding for humanitarian assistance equated to NOK6.6 billion (US$687 million). 

Multilateral organizations received 58% of all Norwegian funding in 2021. NOK12.6 billion (US$ 1.3 billion) went to the UN system, while NOK3.2 billion (US$333 million) went to the World Bank Group. CSOs received 23% of Norwegian development assistance. Among CSOs, Norwegian Refugee Council received the largest amount of funding, followed by the Norwegian Red Cross, Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian People's Aid, and Save the Children Norway. 

Norad – Press release (in Norwegian)

Bistandsaktuelt – News article (in Norwegian) 

Dutch Cabinet prioritizes primary health care, SRHR over ACT-A contributions

In a letter to Parliament, the Dutch cabinet addressed the Committee on Foreign Affairs, covering the Netherlands' forthcoming Global Health Strategy and Dutch ACT-A contributions in 2022.

The letter came in response to Committee questions to the cabinet. The Labour Party emphasized the importance of contributing the Netherlands' assigned fair share to the WHO's Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), of which the Netherlands has contributed only 20% so far.

The cabinet noted in its letter, however, that for every COVID-19 death, there are two deaths from interrupted care in childbirth or pregnancy. Therefore, the Netherlands will continue to focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and primary health care, being the seventh-largest donor in the field, making it impossible to fully meet the financial requirements of the ACT-A. The spring budget will be published on June 1, 2022, containing any applicable revisions and additions to the original development budget presented in September of 2021. 

Press Release - Dutch Parliament (in Dutch)

NGOs call on UK to address rising global hunger

A group of 15 international development organizations, including Christian Aid, Save the Children, and the British Red Cross wrote an open letter to the UK government, in which they demanded that the government step up its funding to tackle rising global hunger.

The agencies warned that the conflict in Ukraine has resulted in increasing prices and broken supply chains for grains, cooking oil, fertilizer, and fuel and that this is making pre-existing hunger crises for many countries far worse. The World Bank calculated that there could be a 37% jump in food prices because of the conflict in Ukraine.

The agencies called for the UK government to provide new funding and action to prevent famines and ensure that food is affordable. They also called for a reversal of cuts to the UK’s ODA budget and a commitment to ensure funding for Ukraine is in addition to existing UK development commitments rather than coming at the expense of other programs.  

News article – Keep the Faith

New report highlights COVID-19 impact on existing epidemcis like HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB

Focus Equality, a member of the ACTION global health advocacy partnership, and the think tank Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) recently published the report, 'Global health and international cooperation addressing current and future pandemics'. 

The report assessed the state of the fight against COVID-19 one year after the G20 World Health Summit. In addition, the research analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on other existing epidemics such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV. The document provided recommendations to the Italian Government given the replenishment of the Global Fund, which is scheduled to take place in September of 2022.

Report - Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)

FCDO international development strategy remains unpublished, internal budget allocations delayed

Devex recently reported that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has not yet finalized internal allocations for its budget for FY2022/23. 

The overall budget envelope for the FCDO was set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his 2021 Comprehensive Spending Review at £11.1 billion (US$14.3 billion) for FY2022/23 (for both ODA and non-ODA spending). Normally, funding allocations to core thematic and geographic departments within the FCDO are decided by April the latest. However, Devex noted that the FCDO is struggling to finalize these internal allocations.

Part of the reason for the delay could be the failure of the FCDO to finalize its policy priorities, particularly in international development. The UK’s long-awaited International Development Strategy, which has been drawn up by the FCDO, was initially scheduled for release last year but remains unpublished. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in March was cited as the latest reason for the delay, as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, set about re-writing the strategy in light of the geopolitical shift.

Devex noted that there are concerns that following the recent UK local elections on May 5, 2022, Prime Minister Boris Johnson may reshuffle the cabinet reshuffle, potentially causing further delays in the strategy's publication.

The UK NGO community has called for the publication of the International Development Strategy as soon as possible, especially in light of the currently reduced ODA budget and the need for transparency and clarity over the UK’s priorities moving forward.

News article – DEVEX

US Senate confirms new PEPFAR head

The United States Senate confirmed the appointment of Dr. John Nkengasong to be the next US Global AIDS Coordinator.  He will lead the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  Currently, Dr. Nkengasong serves as the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first time that PEPFAR has a confirmed leader since Dr. Deborah Birx stepped down in 2020, a gap that has frustrated AIDS experts. PEPFAR's budget is US$6 billion annually, and the lack of permanent leadership came at a time when the COVID-19 crisis had a devastating impact on the HIV pandemic.

Dr. Nkengasong is a virologist from Cameroon and will be the first African-born person to lead PEPFAR. He was nominated by US President Biden to the post in September of 2021.

News report - Devex

EIB launches new joint initiative with EU national banks to offer US$2.2 billion in financial support for Ukrainian refugees

The European Investment Bank (EIB) launched a new €2 billion (US$2.2 billion) initiative, Quick Response — Care for Ukrainian Refugees in Europe, with five national banks in the European Association of Long-Term Investors (ELTI).

The initiative will provide financing in 2022 to support Ukrainian refugees hosted in EU member states, including to help provide housing, education, healthcare, and infrastructure.

The ELTI is an association of 31 public national promotional banks and financial institutions in Europe. 

Press release - EIB

Spanish think tank holds conference pandemic preparedness and response conference

On May 5 and 6, 2022, the global health think tank and research institution Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) organized a conference aimed at discussing global preparation to respond to future environmental and public health crises.

Bringing together researchers, health professionals, practitioners, and decision-makers in the two-day workshop held in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain, ISGlobal conducted technical discussions to exchange varying points of view and amalgamate lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic; participants shared ideas geared toward advancing preparedness, response, recovery, and resilience to future pandemics.  

The workshop concluded with a high-level roundtable that gathered different institutions like the Spanish ministries of Health and Science, the European Commission, the World Health Organization, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, and the African Centre for Disease Control.

Press release - ISGlobal

South Korea and United Kingdom sign MOU on preparing for future pandemics

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) and United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate with each other in preparing for future pandemics.

The two countries will cooperate in monitoring infectious diseases, risk assessment, responding to biological terrorism, and sharing pathogen information. They will also organize an annual high-level policy dialogue and expert meetings in addition to conducting research projects. Two commissioners from the two countries stressed that this future-oriented cooperation would help to solidify the health and security agenda and prepare for future pandemics.

News article – Maeil business (in Korean)

Canada's 2020-2021 international assistance focused on gender equality, global health, says report

Canada recently published its annual report on international assistance for 2020-2021, which provides an overview of Canada's global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a summary of Canada’s work to advance the priorities set out in the Feminist International Assistance Policy and the 2030 Agenda, and Canada's commitment to global partnerships.

Key highlights of Canada’s international assistance in 2020-2021 included:

  • Canada’s leadership role in the ACT-Accelerator and the COVAX Facility, committing CA$1.3 billion (US$1.0 billion) to support access to COVID-19 tests and vaccines;
  • Providing close to CA$1.2 billion (US$930 million) to meet the humanitarian needs of approximately 115 million people; and 
  • Supporting the empowerment of women and girls through CA$375 million (US$290 million) in development assistance specifically to advance gender equality around the world.

The report highlighted that Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Mali were the top 5 recipients of Canada’s international assistance in 2020-2021. It also found that global health and nutrition, and climate and environment were the top-funded action areas of the Feminist International Assistance Policy.

Report - Global Affairs Canada

Australia disburses over 50% of bilateral COVID-19 vaccines to Indo-Pacific region

Australia has bilaterally delivered more than 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to countries in the Indo-Pacific region - over half of Australia's 60 million dose commitment.

The majority of doses were supplied to Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Separately,  Australia committed an additional A$85 million (US$61 million) to the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) on  April 1, 2022. Australia’s total commitment to the COVAX AMC is now A$215 million (US$158 million).

The Australian Government also committed A$100 million (US$72 million) to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI). This pledge represents a more than 5-fold increase over Australia’s previous commitment to CEPI. Half of the CEPI funding came from the Australian ODA budget and the other half from Australia’s Health Department.

Report - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Press release – Minister for Foreign Affairs